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Jun. 17, 2016 9:34 am

Why Philadelphians should be happy the city is crowded with tourists

At this month's OpenAccessPHL meetup, leaders from the city's tourism sector spoke about the economic plus side of those sometimes-pesky visitors.

Pretty city.

(Photo by Mo Manklang)

As a Philly native working in local social impact, it can be hard for me to get excited about tourism. Because I’m partnering with organizations like PhillyCAM and Norris Square Neighborhood Project that are doing direct, tangible work to aid their communities, it’s easy — and incorrect — to put tourism aside as a sector that doesn’t affect my daily life.

But I’ve been seeing things differently since Philadelphia started campaigning to become designated as a World Heritage Citywhich we achieved last November — and especially since hearing from our city’s tourism leaders at last week’s OpenAccessPHL meetup.

Here’s a quick overview of just how much tourism means to Philadelphia, in spending from 2010 to 2015:

Philadelphia tourist volume

Image courtesy of Visit Philadelphia

This month’s OAP meetup hosted representatives from different aspects of Philly’s tourism sector:

  • Sheila Hess, city representative
  • Tiffany Weber, senior marketing manager, Independence Visitor Center
  • Fritz Smith, VP of research and hotel initiatives, Visit Philadelphia
  • Andrew Lovell, associate director of industry relations, Temple University, School of Tourism and Hospitality Management
  • Julie Coker Graham, president and CEO, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau
Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 4.53.42 PM

(Image courtesy of Visit Philadelphia)

The chart above illustrates a steady climb in dollars being circulated into our local economy, and with several benefits:

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  • The $10.4 billion in total economic impact in 2015 alone
  • The support of 92,000 jobs in a variety of levels from service to management to senior level leadership
  • Smith noted these offices put a ton of resources into each campaign, which means they’re also doing tons of data collection about the 2.5 million visitors coming to Philly every year, where they’re going, and how the world sees Philly
  • According to Lovell, we have the means to send our young people to events like the Diversity Business Summit with Major League Baseball to develop their skills and connections
  • Increasing the perception of Philadelphia — the panelists agreed that Philadelphia is largely known worldwide as a way station between New York City and Washington D.C. — with events like the DNC, the World Meeting of Families and the World Heritage City designation all have elevated Philadelphia’s global profile

The big takeaway is that we should be encouraging this kind of development, which trickles down from the high-profile events down to the celebration of community organizations like Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture. Food for thought next time we’re muscling through Reading Terminal Market on a busy Saturday this summer.

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